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Glen Cove test probe questioned by assemblyman

Landing Elementary School in Glen Cove on April

Landing Elementary School in Glen Cove on April 12, 2013. Credit: Steve Pfost

State Assemb. Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove) called for a review of the Glen Cove schools' handling of an investigation into alleged "test coaching" by some teachers, saying he is reacting to fears by some constituents that the probe is being conducted improperly and lasting too long.

"Over the course of at least half a year, the Glen Cove City School District has conducted a far ranging and extensive investigation into allegations of testing aberrations in our public schools, including the interrogation of many teachers, administrators and children," read a letter Lavine sent on Monday to state Education Commissioner John King.

The request is the latest development since reports surfaced that some teachers helped students in the Landing and Margaret A. Connolly elementary schools on 2012 spring exams.

A spokesman for King, Jonathan Burman, said Monday evening that the commissioner has not yet received Lavine's letter.

It comes within days of the abrupt resignation Thursday of Superintendent Joseph Laria. Sources said he allowed a 16-year-old student to drive his luxury car in the high school parking lot with two others in the back on Wednesday.

Lavine said Laria's departure is yet another source of angst.

"There's great frustration among people in the city of Glen Cove," the assemblyman said in a telephone interview. "Some people have expressed concerns to me with respect to the aggressive nature of the investigation and others have shrugged their shoulders. . . . We have this cloud hanging over the public education system."

In probing the elementary school allegations, district officials questioned dozens of students, with parents' permission, and discovered in those interviews that students with low scores had improved grades through improper coaching by nearly two dozen teachers, sources have said.

In November, Glen Cove's school board voted to allow a private attorney to investigate. In addition, the state Education Department appointed a Nassau BOCES specialist to conduct a parallel investigation.

The high school also is under scrutiny because of allegations of grade-changing on the 2012 Regents exams.

The Nassau district attorney's office is investigating.

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